FAQs Executive Order 12721: Non-Competitive Eligibility

The following information has been developed to familiarize Foreign Service family members, Human Resources Officers (HROs), and hiring officials with the terms of Executive Order (E.O.) 12721. This information is important to family members because it explains how work performed in an overseas mission can help them to gain employment with the U.S Government when residing in the U.S. This information is also important to hiring officials and HROs in the U.S. who are often called upon to interpret the executive order when hiring domestically and to post’s HR offices that may be asked to respond to verification requests. Family members seeking employment with other federal agencies should contact the HR office of the agency advertising the vacancy to ensure that they understand how to take advantage of this special hiring authority.

  1. What is Executive Order 12721 Eligibility?
  2. Who is eligible?
  3. What kind of work earns credit?
  4. What is the time limit for using the eligibility?
  5. How many times can the eligibility be used?
  6. What about eligibility extensions?
  7. Does time in FSFRC reserve status or Intermittent No Work Scheduled status earn credit?
  8. Are there service waivers?
  9. How does an EFM use Executive Order 12721 when applying for federal jobs?
  10. What employment records demonstrate NCE eligibility?
  11. How can The Network connect family members with “NCE required” jobs?
  12. What is the NCE Registry and how do I enroll?
  13. Where can I find more information?

1. What is Executive Order 12721 Eligibility?

Executive Order 12721 enables certain Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) to be appointed non-competitively to a career-conditional appointment in the Civil Service once they return to the U.S. Those individuals may be hired into any federal occupation and at any grade level for which they are qualified. Once a family member is converted to a Civil Service appointment, they are no longer on a Family Member Appointment (FMA) and must fulfill the same one-year time-in-grade requirements as any other career-conditional Civil Service employee in order to apply for higher graded positions. (To learn more about this subject, refer to the merit promotion policies of each agency.)

2. Who is eligible?

To be eligible, an EFM must have completed 52 weeks of service or 2,087 hours in certain position(s) performed under a local hire appointment(s) overseas. Work must be performed during the time the family member was accompanying an employee sponsor officially assigned to an overseas post. The EFM must have received a fully successful or better (or equivalent) performance rating, and must have been a Foreign Service family member at the time s/he met the overseas service requirement, but does not need to be a eligible family member at the time of non-competitive appointment in the U.S.

3. What kind of work earns credit?

Creditable service may have been under more than one Family Member Appointment (FMA) and need not be continuous. If the individual is separated and subsequently reemployed (e.g., terminated in June and re-hired in September), the time spent in non-employed status does not count toward the 52 weeks. Leave Without Pay (LWOP) taken during the time an individual is overseas, that does not exceed six months in any calendar year, is credited on the same basis as time worked. Regularly scheduled part-time work is credited as full-time service for the purpose of earning NCE. An FMA in and of itself does not convey Executive Order Eligibility. In order to obtain eligibility, an employee must serve in a qualifying position. 

  • Family Member Appointment (FMA) for the requisite 52 weeks on the required minimum work schedule (16 regularly scheduled hours per week in a part-time position). 
  • Temporary appointment for the requisite 2,087 hours on an intermittent work schedule. 

Family members in the Foreign Service Family Member Reserve Corps (FSFRC) reserve status or Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status who also have non-competitive eligibility may apply for positions, "limited to Department of State employees only" as well as those advertised for “all federal employees.” 

Temporary appointments are direct-hire, non-career appointments for positions established for one year or less. They may also be used with a full-time, part-time, or Intermittent Work Schedule/When Actually Employed (IWS/WAE). Temporary appointments convey creditable U.S. Government service and non-competitive eligibility under E.O. 12721; however, under a temporary appointment, employees qualify for non-competitive eligibility ONLY if they have accrued 2,087 hours.

4. What is the time limit for using the eligibility?

 

An individual is eligible for temporary, term, excepted, or career-conditional appointments under E.O. 12721 for a period of three years following the date of return from overseas to the U.S. to resume residency. Once an individual is appointed into the competitive service, he/she must fulfill the qualification requirements (i.e., specialized experience, time in grade, etc.) before competing for other competitive service positions within the Department of State or another agency.

If the employee sponsor returns to the U.S. on a short-term tour, such as TDY or training and not a permanent change of station (PCS), the family member is not establishing residency. Therefore, the family member with NCE retains the eligibility unless they invoke NCE during the short-term tour in the U.S. Once the family member has a PCS to the U.S. and establishes residency, the family member then has three years to use NCE. For further information, contact FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

5. How many times can the eligibility be used?

 

The Department of State’s policy permits a one-time use of NCE for all career and career-conditional appointments. This means that once NCE has been invoked for a Department of State career or career-conditional appointment or the three year eligibility time period has passed, an EFM must reearn NCE by working in a Family Member Appointment overseas. Family members should consult non-Department of State agencies to verify their policies related to the one time use of NCE. However, an individual may use NCE more than once for temporary, term, or excepted service positions in the Civil Service even if NCE was required to secure the position.

6. What about eligibility extensions?

An agency may extend an individual's appointment eligibility beyond three years for periods equivalent to the time the individual was accompanying a sponsor on an official assignment to an area of the U.S. with no significant opportunities for federal employment or the time an individual was incapacitated for employment.

7. Does time in FSFRC reserve status or Intermittent No Work Scheduled status earn credit?

No. An individual in Foreign Service Family Member Reserve Corps (FSFRC) reserve status or Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status does not receive pay, benefits, or service credit. However, while the family member is in FSFRC reserve status or INWS status, s/he remains on the rolls of the Department of State. FSFRC reserve status and INWS status, together with NCE, enables the family member to apply for a broader range of advertised positions.

8. Are there service waivers?

Yes. Up to 26 weeks of the 52 week service requirement may be waived when the head of an agency (or designee) that employed the family member overseas certifies that the family member's 52 weeks of employment were cut short because of a non-personal situation that necessitated the relocation of the family member from the overseas post. The certification must include the number of weeks waived. For this purpose, a non-personal situation includes disaster, conflict, terrorism or the threat of terrorism, and those situations when a family member is forced to return to the U.S. because of military deployment, drawdowns, or other management-initiated actions. Family members who believe they meet one of these exceptions can contact FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

9. How does an EFM use Executive Order 12721 when applying for federal jobs?

 

Vacancy announcements state clearly in the “who can apply” section the type of eligible applicant. Those with Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) earned under E.O. 12721 can apply to announcements that include non-competitive candidates in their area of consideration. The descriptions of which non-competitive candidates may apply vary from one announcement to another, depending on the agency, however, many announcements will have one or more of the following descriptions as an indicator that those with NCE may be considered: E.O. 12721, special hiring authorities, former overseas employees, family of overseas employees, non-competitive candidates, and candidates under 5 CFR 315 Subpart F. Applicants must submit copies of personnel actions (SF-50s) and performance appraisals to verify eligibility. Although not required, it is helpful if family members receive a letter verifying eligibility from the HR office at the post where NCE was earned. For further guidance, contact FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

When applying for positions outside the Department of State, a copy of these FAQs may be included in the application package to assist the hiring official.

10. What employment records demonstrate NCE eligibility?

 

To use NCE to secure federal employment, candidates must have all the requested documentation to confirm eligibility. Before leaving a Family Member Appointment (FMA) overseas, family members should download all pertinent information from the HR Online portal while they have access. They should have electronic and paper copies of their first and last Notification of Personnel Action forms (SF-50s) for every federal position held as these confirm the duration of the appointments and the last grade and step. SF-50s and the most recent signed performance review are required documents that prove NCE. Post’s HR office should also provide an NCE Verification Letter, which is recommended but not required. The SF-50s, verification letter, and the performance review should be scanned into one document and emailed as an attachment when applying for a vacancy or uploaded to USAJOBS.gov when applying for a federal job.

11. How can The Network connect family members with “NCE required” jobs?

 

The Network email subscription service connects family members with potential employers. FLO searches for federal job opportunities that family members with NCE would be considered for non-competitive hire upon their return to the U.S. FLO also works with other organizations to locate job opportunities, providing family members information on government contractors, NGOs, and other private sector positions in the U.S. Family members may register to receive this information by sending an email to FLONetwork@state.gov. Include the employee sponsor's name, agency affiliation, and the family member's personal email address.

12. What is the NCE Registry and how do I enroll?

 

The NCE Registry was created for family members who have earned NCE and/or are former Civil Service employees with reinstatement eligibility who are returning from overseas. It is a tool to connect Department of State hiring managers to potential job applicants. When a hiring manager has an open vacancy, he/she can request a list of potential applicants based upon their skills and experience. For more information and to register go to FLO’s NCE Registry webpage.

13. Where can I find more information?

The complete text of Executive Order 12721 is found in 5 CFR Part 315.608 as amended on July 20, 2012. Visit FLO’s NCE webpage with information on The Network, the FLO Tutorial: The Federal Hiring Process, and NCE Registry information. For further questions, contact the Family Liaison Office at FLOAskEmployment@state.gov.

 

Information provided by the Family Liaison Office
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